Blended Education is a system of teaching and learning that combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer mediated activities to deliver instruction.

A girl student attending an online class on a laptopImage for representation
Voices Education Tuesday, January 05, 2021 - 16:26

Newspapers on January 1, 2021 reported 5 new cases of the mutant variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, taking the total number of these cases to 25 as per the Ministry of Health. While I wondered how this new version of uncertainty will impact our lives in 2021, the other headlines that grabbed the attention of the parent in me were, “After nine months, schools and PU colleges re-open today” and “CBSE Board exams will begin on May 4.”

Clearly, we are making efforts to move on even though the health emergency is becoming more complex. However, it’s important to remember that moving forward is only possible when we prepare for a new norm where suddenly a whole school can be shut down even if one person tests positive in the campus.

Blended Education appears to be the path that can bridge the gaps that might emerge in these uncertain times. It is a system of teaching and learning that combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer mediated activities to deliver instruction. The strengths of this approach are its combination of face-to-face and online teaching methods into one integrated instructional approach.

Last year the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 made a comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics, in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education. It was also proposed in the policy that an autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning and administration.

While we understand that rolling out a policy takes time, the pandemic has ensured a rapid learning experience in 2020 in this area. We hope this learning of all education boards, teachers, parents and students can be systematically captured to make clear progress in implementing a robust Blended Education system in the country.

This article is an urgent appeal to create a regular sharing system to reduce the uncertainty stress for students, teachers and parents. We are completing almost a year of online education and we hope the schools and examination boards will share with us their insights by presenting:

  1. An online sharing system

An online sharing system for education boards, schools, parents and students in every state of the country so that we can create cross learning opportunities to develop a strong Blended Education system. These could be quarterly meetings in every school that allow everyone to share their learnings and express their concerns. The schools can share these documented learnings with the education boards for them to prepare standardised guidelines customised to the specific needs of our country.

  1. Standardised guidelines to enhance online education

One year down the line we can see that online education requires a perspective shift in the way we approach the teaching-learning process and the evaluation system. To ensure better learning outcomes, it is important to work with the advantages of the online medium. The focus has to shift from children attending synchronous class lectures for full school hours to ensuring children becoming active responsible learners.

  • “Flipped classrooms” for active blended learning: The teaching-learning process has to be a balance between synchronous and asynchronous classes even for senior classes. Short 10-20-minute pre-recorded videos with presentation of the basic concept taught in every class can be shared with students in advance, especially in senior classes. They can be encouraged to go through these before coming to class with their questions. This would encourage students to be active participants in the classroom and perhaps master the critical art of asking relevant questions. The pre-recorded videos would also be an invaluable resource for all children to complete class notes, homework and prepare for exams.
  • Inclusive classrooms and self-paced learning: A balance between synchronous and asynchronous classes can help each student to self-pace their learning. This flexibility can be a huge boon for children with Different Learning Abilities[1]. Schools would not be compelled to conduct full classes through the day for everyone. Children who have learnt the concept with the pre-recorded videos can use the classroom session to complete homework or project works assigned to master the concepts. And students who need more time to study the concept can use the class to clear their doubts with teachers. Strict timelines can be set for submitting work to ensure the time allotted for school work is not wasted.
  • Flexible examination system: Blended Education needs a flexible examination system as well. To overcome the major concern of cheating during exams, it’s important to ensure other standard ways of assessing learning.  Students opting for Blended Education can be given an option to choose the following alternative systems of evaluation:

Research-based projects presented either by writing a project or through audio/video interviews which allow the child to orally respond to questions or make presentations that demonstrate knowledge.

Open book quarterly exams that are aligned with the new education policy that aims at moving away from one summative annual exam; that is more a test of memory rather than learning of the student.

Such modes of evaluation build real life skills and demonstrate not just reading and writing abilities but also presenting application-oriented understanding. Focus on research will help students understand how to learn anything they want. It will build ability to critically analyse information for solving problems, a much-required skill for coping with their uncertain futures in the face of the pandemic.

  1. Blended Education as an integral option

A plan for 2021-22 that allows every parent to choose Blended Education as an option should be mandatory for all examination boards before the next academic year begins. The Blended Education system can be a viable alternative only if we realise that it has to be made an integral part of the education system for times to come.

In times of prolonged uncertainty, this plan for Blended Education 2021-22 might bring some semblance of certainty in the coming year for students, parents and teachers.

Salma Veeraraghav is a communications consultant and Founder of C4C.


[1]Different Learning Abilities includes children with special learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADHD, ADD or gifted children who might find themselves at a distinctly different learning pace from the regular class.

 

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